Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

John Lowe


Thomas Hardy, Ellen Glasgow, and William Faulkner used the pastoral mode to show the contradictions, inconsistencies, and dangers in some forms of bucolic idyll. The ambivalence of their texts toward the rural world causes many critics to deny or overlook the presence of the pastoral mode in the work of these three novelists. A study of pastoral literature reveals that its characteristics have never been as fixed as many theorists would like to believe. Pastoral redefines, subverts, and reinvents itself as it interacts with different people, cultures, and languages. The theories of Mikhail Bakhtin help us to understand textual ambivalence toward the pastoral mode, especially when employed in the novel. The novel is dialogic, allowing other voices to speak, thereby disrupting the authority of a single voice. Pastoral discourse may be used to impose a hegemonic culture through an authoritative discourse. Pastoral becomes an official ideology, legitimizing and reinforcing oppression by means of a bucolic myth. The dialogic nature of the novel allows the oppressed voices to speak, problematizing the idyllic aspects of pastoral life. Bakhtin's concept of carnival permits us to see how laughter parodies and calls into question the idealism characteristic of many versions of pastoral. The texts of Hardy, Glasgow, and Faulkner deal with characters and cultures which have inherited certain versions of pastoral myth. Their texts reveal how pastoral often becomes a discourse that encourages domination. Hardy, Glasgow, and Faulkner use class, gender, racial, and religious issues to problematize the idyllic aspects of pastoral. The primary texts under consideration in this work are Under the Greenwood Tree, Far from the Madding Crowd, The Woodlanders, The Return of the Native, and Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Hardy; The Battle-Ground, Virginia, Vein of Iron, and Barren Ground, by Glasgow; and Absalom, Absalom!, Light in August, Go Down, Moses, and the Snopes trilogy, The Hamlet, The Town, and The Mansion by Faulkner. These plots, characters, and narrations reveal the difficulties experienced by societies and individuals when pastoral idealism meets the inconsistencies and contradictions within and without its own discourse.